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The Crazy Life of a Coin Dealer

9th National Silver Dollar Convention

St. Louis, Missouri

November 10 – 13, 1988


The Crazy Life of a Coin Dealer

By Gayle K. Pike


Many of my friends think my life is very glamorous traveling around the country selling coins and jewelry.  I get to fly to lots of cities, stay at hotels and eat out all the time.  I must admit, it has its great moments and the people are the best in the world; but then there are the other times.  Typically each of us has our horror story that sends our blood pressure sky high at the time, but months later we find funny – or at least mildly amusing.  We wonder how so much could go wrong in to so little time!  Roger Bryan, FUN President, recently wrote an article on one of his “adventures,” but I do believe I have one that will top his.

I work and share a lot of tables with a terrific group of guys from the Detroit area.  Several of these guys put on the Detroit Renaissance Coin Show which, unfortunately, usually falls of the same weekend as our Tennessee State Coin Show.  This year to my delight it did not conflict and I was informed that I best be there.  Since I sell a lot of jewelry, I always go to the Tucson Gem Show scheduled to begin the same Friday and run the entire week.  “No problem,” I thought.  “I will just go straight from Detroit to Tucson.”  There was a Republic flight that left late Sunday evening from Detroit, stopping in Minneapolis and continuing on to Phoenix.  In Phoenix I changed to a flight for Tucson scheduled to arrive at 9:00 p.m., which allowed plenty of time for a good night’s sleep prior to beginning the Gem Show bright and early on Monday.  NO PROBLEM!  Was that a laugh!

Now, to understand my troubles you have to know a little about the airline system.  The free tickets earned in the airline frequent flyer program are great as long as your flight encounters no problems.  Also, the free tickets require that you begin and end your flight in the same city and all travel must be on the airline issuing the free ticket.  I had wanted to go from Tucson directly back to Memphis.  But I was told I couldn’t; so I booked a flight from Memphis to Detroit and back to Memphis a week later.   I decided to use my free ticket from Detroit to Tucson and back to Detroit.  The Gem Show in Tucson is held once a year and is really about 10 different shows which are held at a different hotel for the entire week culminating with the main show at the convention center.  Every hotel room and rental car in Tucson are taken for this event.  So I was feeling very good.  My hotel room was guaranteed.  My rental car was confirmed at a very good rate and my roundtrip flight from Detroit to Tucson was free and was first class.  No problem!  Boy, would those words come back to haunt me!

It all started when a friend of mine from Detroit and her fiancé offered to take me to the airport on Sunday.  Because we were busy catching up on all the gossip, he didn’t realize he had missed the turn until we had gone several miles out of the way.  A quick U- turn got me to the airport 3 minutes before my flight was to leave.  The ticket agent told me if I ran as fast as I could I might make the flight; but I could say bye to my bags right then.  They wouldn’t make it until the next flight and that wasn’t until the next day.  I did make the flight.  I sat hoping as each baggage truck passed the plane that I would see it stop and load my bags.  No such luck.  So I resigned myself to spending the night without so much as a toothbrush.  I settled down with a drink and decided to get some bookkeeping done.  Our 30 minute stop in Minneapolis turned into 3 hours.  I had only 35 minutes in Phoenix before my flight to Tucson.  Therefore, when they announced that we would be a “few minutes” late because of a mechanical problem, I started to get a little worried.  I asked the flight attendant what the delay would do to my connection.  She laughingly replied the flight we were to pick up in Phoenix for Tucson was still on the ground there in Minneapolis.  It also had mechanical trouble!  I felt much better, but made a note to ask the travel agent why I hadn’t been on that flight in the first place.

It wasn’t long before the pilot and co-pilot came out to join the passengers for coffee – a sure sign that we weren’t going anywhere soon!  The co-pilot was explaining that we had trouble with the slats on the wing.  It seems they didn’t want to go down at the same time.  We had made a rather abrupt drop on our landing approach in Minneapolis and I couldn’t help wondering if that was because of the slat problem.  I made the mistake of asking and discovered that this was due to the computer landing the plane “not having its act together” and didn’t have everything synchronized properly.  Which way is the train station?  The mechanics kept hopping on and off the plane as a half dozen passengers gather at the cockpit door to watch the captain try the slats to see if they worked together, only to see the red light indicating our wait wasn’t over.  Finally an announcement came for all passengers connecting in Phoenix for Tucson to deplane as they were being rerouted.

So I grabbed my briefcase and coat and hurried off the plane only to be met with an apology that because I was on a free ticket I couldn’t be placed on another airline and my best bet was to hope we made up time in the air.  Fat chance that we will make up 2 hours in the air!  So I called and cancelled my guaranteed hotel room in Tucson knowing Phoenix was as far as I was going to get that night – even if I made it to Phoenix.  So back on the plan I went, much to the dismayed look on the flight attendant’s face.  A quick explanation brought me another free drink and a blanket.  I had just situated myself comfortably when the announcement came that our plane was going to the hanger and we were transferring to a new plane.  So 200 people grabbed kids and bags and changed planes.  Finally we were in the air and on our way to Phoenix.  I got out my Republic schedule to see how quickly the following morning I could get a flight to Tucson and to figure out when my bags would arrive.  Much to my horror, Republic has one flight a day between Tucson and Phoenix at 8:30 p.m. which meant I couldn’t get to Tucson for 24 hours.  It’s either rent a car and drive to Tucson, or pay for the extra airfare on another carrier between Phoenix and Tucson, or miss an entire day of the gem show.  At this point I was a little tense!  The last 40 minutes of my flight, a small child several rows back cried and no amount of comforting from Daddy seemed to work.  At that point in my trip I felt like crying too and would have cried if there had been someone to put their arm around me and tell me everything was going to be alright.

Upon my arrival in Phoenix, I went to the agent and asked about the next Republic flight to Tucson.  To my surprise they were going to put me on another airline and get me out to Tucson that night.  Every hotel in the city was sold out and I had cancelled my room for the night; but, I’m not about to argue with their generosity.  I arrived in Tucson around midnight.  I went down to baggage claim first and to my great surprise sitting in the corner were 2 very familiar pieces of luggage.  Something is going my way for a change!  I guess the baggage handlers didn’t know my bags were on a free ticket and sent them by another airline because my bags made it to Tucson several hours before I did.  I started calling hotels praying for a vacancy.  I lucked out and got one on the second call.  Things are going too good!  I called the rental car and they sent the van right over to get me.  However, when I got to their office, with my confirmation number in hand, I was told that there was no car available for me.  No amount of arguing could make a car appear and they didn’t seem to care that the city was sold out for rental cars.  By this point all I wanted to do was crawl in bed and pull the covers up over my head and hope for a better day.  So this @#%&! rental car agency did me the “great courtesy” of taking me back to the airport.  Needless to say that agency will never be used again!  After being “dumped” back at the airport another call brought the hotel van.  After checking in, I realized I was starving and had just missed the restaurant closing by 10 minutes.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day!!

Monday started out okay.  The first place I called had a car available so I grabbed it.  I checked out of my hotel and into the hotel that was to be my hotel for the week.  Then I rushed down to the show.  I spent about 6 hours at the first hotel and noticed as I drove out of the parking lot that people were staring at me.  As I drove down the street several people pointed at me.  Everything seemed o.k.  Finally I rolled down the window only to be told I had a flat tire.  Impossible, I thought.  You can’t have a flat and not know it.  Guess what?  You can on these new cars.  Sure enough it was flat as a pancake.  I’ve been driving for 20 years and never had a flat tire, but somehow having one this weekend didn’t surprise me.

The rest of the week went very well considering tired feet, aching muscles, and exhaustion.  Then on Friday, I was to check out and head home.  When I checked out I found my room rate had been changed from $33 to $39 a day.  When I inquired I was told that $33 was the single rate.  I told the desk clerk that I was single and that I had a single room all week.  At this pint the clerk informed me that this couldn’t be true because women didn’t travel alone!  Trying to be very businesslike and not burst out laughing I informed him I was a “real big girl” and had been traveling alone for quite some time.  After several minutes, I finally convinced him.  Wouldn’t he be surprised to know I did it every weekend?  I thought of some great things to say, but decided that most of them would have gone over his head anyway.  I got my $33 rate and laughed all the way to the airport wondering if at age 36 I should get a note from my mother saying I have permission to be out alone.

I had a 2 hour layover in Detroit before my flight to Memphis and had planned to meet a girlfriend for a drink.  When I checked in at Tucson, I got a real sweetheart of an agent who offered to send me directly to Memphis rather than the scenic route through Detroit.  It was tempting.  But since I see my girlfriend so seldom and she had made special plans to come out to the airport, I explained to the agent that I had better go on through Detroit.  I had to change planes in Phoenix and called her to let her know exactly what time I got into Detroit.  Somehow it just fit the pattern when she told me she was sick and had a doctor’s appointment and wouldn’t be able to make it out to the airport.  You can imagine my frustration when I got to Detroit and found out my flight was 3 hours late.  Five hours to kill.  It just figured.  If my girlfriend had been able to come out, my plane most certainly would have left exactly on time, but since she couldn’t it was late.  How do you kill 5 hours in an airport?  You call all your friends in that city and say hi.  You try 3 flavors of ice cream and a bowl of chili.  Last, but not least, you memorize the gift shops.  Since it was Valentine’s Day, I did get a kick out of all the men on their way home rushing in to buy their sweetheart a card and I thought a little sadly of the Valentines cards I had bought and never mailed.  I finally made my way to the gate only to find out the flight was going to be another hour late.  Finally, we were in the air and the dinner service turned out to be an apple and a slightly frozen ham sandwich.  Fortunately I wasn’t very hungry thanks to the three ice cream cones I enjoyed during my wait.  As luck would have it, I had a young man in his twenties sitting next to me who had just gotten a “Dear John” letter from his girlfriend.  Believe it or not he talked nonstop all the way to Memphis.  I just wasn’t in the mood to give advice to the young man but I didn’t have the heart to not listen.  I hoped a few yawns would give him the message that I really wanted to sleep.  I was thankful for my arrival in Memphis.  I grabbed my cab and headed for my mother’s house where my car was parked.  I had a very nice cab driver and we laughed about my strange trip.  He promised to get me home without incident.  We arrived at my mom’s house and he unloaded my bags and started to the door with them.  Halfway up the walk he set the bags down and apologized saying he was afraid of dogs and would go no further.  Standing in the doorway was my mom and her dog.  I laughed and carried the bags the rest of the way, thinking this was a fitting end for such a trip.

What a trip!  And I do this for a living!

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